Make The Spiritual Condition of Others Your Concern This Lenten Season
Who Knows, God May Withdraw His Burning Anger So That …We Will Not Perish, (Jonah 3:9)
2017 Lenten season begins Wednesday, March 1st. You may have already began to give thought to your Lenten journey. It may be some form of spiritual discipline intended to deepen your relationship with the Lord or a traditional practice. Whatever you will decide to do, may the result be spiritually and personally enriching. If I may, I would like to suggest that we take a different approach this year as we observe this Lenten period. Generally, the focus during the Lenten period has been on some personal goal. As you look back over those years of Lenten observation, what benefit can you recall? I am not suggesting that the observation was not beneficial. But it might not be easy to identify and quantify.
The approach I am suggesting is that we make the spiritual well being of someone else our focus and concern. This was what God asked Jonah to do when He sent him to go and warn Nineveh. We know from the account that Jonah choose to cater to his own needs and feelings instead of caring for the people of Nineveh. Jonah was not demonstrating the heart of God in his actions toward the people of Nineveh. Whatever were his reasons, he showed by his actions that he would rather the people in that great city of Nineveh to perish. Irrespective of Jonah’s personal feelings about Nineveh, he was to have laid those aside and follow God’s instructions. Jonah’s behavior is a perfect demonstration of the human will acting contrary to the divine purpose with full knowledge of what that purpose is.
Jonah knew that it was a possibility for the people of Nineveh to repent of their evil ways. He also knew that God was compassionate and merciful and that He would withdraw his anger towards the people of Nineveh. That was what he did not want to happen. He wanted them to be destroyed. If you knew that there is the possibility that someone could turn to Christ by your action, would you be willing to take that action? Or would you act in protest like Jonah?
Irrespective of how Jonah felt or what he did, it is obvious that his initial action displeased the Lord. God does not stop us from having our way. But He sure will show his displeasure. We must never presume that our displeasure is God’s also. Since we know that it is not the desire of God that anyone perishes, I am asking that for forty days in Lent that you to intercede with God for the salvation of someone. It could be your child, your spouse, your sibling, your neighbor, your co-worker, a public figure, a celebrity, a student, a teacher, a preacher, a church member, a pastor…
When Jonah eventually went to Nineveh, he announced “Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown”, Jonah 3:4. He spoke without giving any suggestion as to how the people could avoid destruction. He just announced that they would be overthrown in forty days.
In response to Jonah’s announcement, the people of Nineveh believed in God and called a fast from the greatest to the least, the king included. The Scripture stated that “When God saw…that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which he had declared He would bring upon them…” Jonah 3:10. We do not know how many days the people of Nineveh fasted and prayed for. But their penitence got God’s attention. He spared the great city of Nineveh.
God heard the and saw the repentance of the city. Jonah did not intercede the way Abraham interceded for Sodom and Gomorrah; He did not intercede like Moses did for the people of Israel; He did not weep as Jesus did over Jerusalem; He did not cry as Jeremiah did for Judah; no, he did not pray as Samuel did for Israel.
What if it is your cry on behalf of those person that God is waiting to hear in order for Him to save that individual? Then let it not be said that it was because you did not pray. Your praying for forty days could result in that individual spending days without number in the presence of the Lord of glory. It sure would be marvelous to have a testimony like David: “I was crying to the LORD with my voice and He answered me…” Psalm 3:4. You would always remember the Lenten period of the year 2017.